Saturday, November 26, 2016

Zygodactyl Feet

A family of Northern Flickers came to visit our Seattle backyard this Thanksgiving weekend, attracted by the bird feeders out in the yard. Northern Flickers are also known as Orange-winged Flickers and are members of the woodpecker family. Attractive birds for sure, but of particular interest to a parrot person is the fact that flickers, and woodpeckers in general, have zygodactyl feet. Just like parrots.

Zygodactyl is an appropriately dinosaurish word meaning two toes forward and two toes backward. Here our Hyacinth macaw parrot Princess Tara shows off her big zygodactyl feet.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Parrots of Damascus

This is just heartbreaking. On July 7th of this year the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) rescued 245 parrots and other exotic birds that had been confined by a bird breeder to deplorable conditions in a pole barn in Damascus, Oregon, outside of Portland:

According to Oregon Humane Society:

Many of the birds were housed in overcrowded cages filled with feces and waste that was sometimes several inches deep. Cages were often stacked three or four high, with feces and food waste overflowing from the top cages to the cages below. Many of the birds suffered from severe feather plucking and overgrown nails and beaks, while others appeared to be suffering from chronic stress.

In October, a Clackamus County grand jury indicted the breeder on multiple felony counts of criminal animal neglect. Each of the three animal neglect felony charges he faces carries a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of up to $125,000. The three felony counts include all 245 birds rescued, with each count covering multiple animals.

Subsequently the breeder released the birds to the Oregon Humane Society and the birds were transferred to an emergency facility operated by OHS.

OHS has commenced the process of adopting the parrots out. According to Oregon Humane Society:

The birds include a variety of exotic breeds, including African grey parrots, macaws, cockatoos, conures, ring neck doves, pigeons, Amazon parrots, finches and parakeets.

Anyone interested in adopting one or more of the birds, or donating to the rehoming effort by OHS, please go to the online adoption or donation pages here.

Please help.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wild Parrots of London

Wild parrots native to South Asia and North Africa are ubiquitous in today's London, with a feral population according to some accounts reaching scourge levels.

Two millennia ago in Roman London? Not so much. However, there were parrots in Roman London, ancestors of today's British parrots. But those parrots were depictions on exquisite Roman frescos recently discovered buried below the streets of London.

According to a story published by the Museum of London Archaeology:

An ornate fresco that once adorned the residence of a wealthy Roman citizen has been discovered by a team of our archaeologists at 21 Lime Street, in London. We uncovered the fresco six metres below street level, whilst undertaking archaeological fieldwork for a new office development. Dating to the late 1st century AD, and the first decades of London, it is one of the earliest surviving frescos from Roman Britain.

Thanks to a huge Roman construction project, the fate of this rare wall painting was literally sealed in the ground. In AD 100, construction of the 2nd Forum Basilica, the main civic centre for the city and the largest Roman building ever built north of the Alps, began. In advance of construction of the Forum the area was flattened. The painted wall was deliberately toppled and the Forum immediately built over it, incredibly preserving the fresco for nearly 2000 years.

Discovered face down, the fresco was identified from the distinctive markings of the keyed daub onto which the plaster was attached. The fragile remains, surviving to a width of nearly 2.5 metres and a height of over 1.5 metres, were carefully removed from the site by our archaeological conservators, who lifted the fresco in 16 sections. Each section was supported, undercut and block lifted so that soil encased and protected the plaster.

Back in the lab the conservators worked quickly to micro-excavate the soil whilst it was still damp, to expose the millimetre-thin painted surface beneath. The painting is likely to have decorated a reception room where guests were greeted and entertained. . . The central section, on a background of green and black vertical panels, depicts deer nibbling trees, alongside birds [Indian Ringneck Parrots], fruit and a vine woven around a candelabrum. Red panels, bordered with cream lines, surround the main decorative scheme. The fresco was hand-painted by a skilled artist in natural earth pigments, except one area of red on the twisting vine stem which is picked out in cinnabar, an expensive mercuric sulphide pigment that had to be mined in Spain.

It is not inconceivable that some wealthy Roman packed his companion parrot with him on his travel to London. That we may never know. This fresco demonstrates that ancient Romans regarded parrots highly enough to depict them in all their glory even in their most distant outpost of Britain.